George Lundberg

George Lundberg nsIn hmolscience, George Lundberg (1895-1966) (CR=33) (SN:31) was an American sociologist—classified, in Stark classification (1962), as a “secondary form” of social mechanism thought—noted for his 1939 Foundations of Sociology, wherein he espousing extreme theories of social mechanism in which the individual is discussed in guise of the physicalist terms of atoms and molecules, and for his use of notions of motion, energy, and force as social processes for defining, based on the earlier views of Albert Weiss (1925), societal groups as ‘electron-proton configurations’. [1]

The following is a noted preface statement: [5]

“If we follow this [scientific] method as faithfully in the social sciences as we have followed it in physics it may yield us a corresponding reward in our powers of control.”

In his 1947 book Can Science Save Us?, which seems to be his most-popular work, he mentions thermodynamics on one page. [4] Austrian social economist Werner Stark was a harsh objector to Lundberg's ideas on social mechanics.

Humans | Proton-electron configurations
The following is a truncated aggregate quote of Lundberg's argument: [2]

“The arrangement of electrons and protons into various types of groups of different symmetrical relations to each other constitute matter. The structure of matter (and of behavior) is, then, a function of its electron-proton configuration. From these elementary hypothetical entities, systems of all degrees of complexity are constructed, variously called atoms, molecules, elements, compounds, tissues, plants, animals, men, races, nations, constellations, galaxies, etc. The social sciences are concerned with the behavior of those electron-proton configurations called societal groups, principally human groups. Just as the properties of a substance are a function of the dynamic and spatial arrangements of limited groups of electrons and protons, so the various energy transformations are functions of the movement types by which tone type of electron symmetry changes into another until a new symmetry has been established.”

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Sociological phlogistons
Lundberg seems to have been the first to employ the so-called “sociological phlogiston” argument, namely that many of our most cherished terms, in the future, via progressive scientific advancement and reductionism, will turn out to be phlogiston-like concepts, once thought to exist and be real, but eventually found superfluous, superseded, disproved and or defunct and not corroborative with growing evidence: [6]

“The less objective our objectifying technics are for certain experiences (i.e. the ‘subjective’ and ‘spiritual’) the greater is the task of communicating them so that they can be verified (the test of objectivity). Indeed, this process of objectifying them may involve analysis, reclassification, and designation by new and strange symbols. Many terms at present will probably be abandoned entirely as devoid of content when the behavior phenomena to which they once referred have been more adequately described by other terms. As science has advanced this has been true of all pre-scientific terms and categories.

Let us take one illustration: Phlogiston. Chemists one-hundred and fifty years ago [saw] phlogiston as a necessary element in the explanation of combustion. By experiments involving much careful and accurate weighing, Lavoisier was able to demonstrate finally the unnecessary character of the hypothetical entity, phlogiston. The terms ‘will’, ‘feeling’, ‘ends’, ‘motives’, ‘values’, etc. These are the phlogiston of the social sciences. I have no doubt that a considerable part of the present content of the social sciences will turn out to be pure phlogiston.”

This type of argument—dubbed eliminative materialism—independently, it seems, is found in the 1988 statements of Patricia Churchland: (Ѻ)

“The various sciences of the mind-brain will likely converge upon unified explanations. Perhaps not of ‘consciousness’, for in the evolved framework that may have gone the way of ‘caloric fluid’ or ‘vital spirit’.”

In the years to follow, both her and Paul Churchland, her husband, have become famous for employing the it seems both the caloric and phlogiston arguments of the mind: “According to the prominent eliminativists, Patricia and Paul Churchland, beliefs are more like ether or phlogiston than like electrons.” (Ѻ)

Henderson | Gibbs
American equilibrium historian Cynthia Russett asserts that Lundberg drew freely from the equilibrium work of Lawrence Henderson, and hence gained his understanding of a scientific system, according the physicochemical system models of Willard Gibbs. [7] This, however, may have been an over-exaggeration. While Lundberg does indeed devote two pages of his Foundations of Sociology to re-quotes of Henderson’s 1935 Pareto’s General Sociology descriptions of Gibbs’ physicochemical systems, and while he does cite Henderson on six pages, there does not seem to be further direct discussion of Gibbs. [8] His 1964 abridged edition, e.g., cites neither Henderson nor Gibbs. Whatever the case, Russett summarizes Lundberg’s outlook as follows: [9]

“Lundberg proposed to view human behavior (his ultimate datum) as ‘movement within a field of force in time.’ Manifestations of this behavior were to be considered functions of energy, energy being simply ‘a name for amounts of change in relationships’ In other words every observable event embodied a transformation of energy from one form to another. These transformations were at least theoretically predictable rather than simply random: they always tended toward equilibrium.

There is always one state which is the most probable of all: ‘the most probable state of a situation or a system is in physics called equilibrium.’ Hence, ‘all natural movement … may be thought of as tending to establish an equilibrium within the area where it operates.’ This was, Lundberg added, a dynamic or moving equilibrium since in dynamic systems (of which, presumably, society was one) the point of reference of the system was continually changing.”

Russett goes on to assert that Lundberg had in mind here the second law of thermodynamics and how the velocities of gas molecules will, whatever their original distribution, will, over time, approach the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution. While Lundberg does cite Maxwell on one page of his Foundations, neither thermodynamics nor entropy are mentioned.

In 1940, Pitirim Sorokin gave his typical scathing review. On equilibrium, generally referring to the Henderson-Gibbs pages, some of which are quoted above, Sorokin states the following:

“Lundberg’s failure to carry through his profession du foi is demonstrated in many ways; first, in an inadequate knowledge and distortion of the main principles of mechanics, physics, mathematics, and other natural sciences. For instance, his notion of equilibrium (pp. 208 ff.) has hardly anything in common with either D’Alembert’s, Lagrange’s, Hoff’s, Le Chatelier’s, Ostwald’s, or Gibbs’, or any other concept of equilibrium in mechanics, physics, or chemistry. It is something bizarre, reminding of one of the Aristotelian notion of the tendency of the heavy bodies to fall down and of the light bodies to go up—a humorous situation for an author who declares Aristotle antiquated.”

This certainly is pretty funny. Here we see Sorokin throwing out a string of big names, as though seemingly in command of hard science knowledge, but in realty unaware of the deep historical connectiveness of the integrations and absorptions of each variant of equilibrium theory, from D'Alembert up through Gibbs, and into Henderson, and then into quotes of Henderson on equilibrium by Lundberg — as though Sorokin were fiending at being a physical chemistry.

Sorokin, to the end, it seems was anti-physical science, when it came to sociology. In his 1936 presidential address before the Internal Congress of Sociology, in a paper entitled "Le concept d'equilibre: est-il necessaire aux sciences socialies?", Sorokin stated: [11]

“Equilibrium appears to me inadequate and represents a liability rather than an asset in the social sciences, and for this reason, should be dropped rather than used in these disciplines.”

He goes on to state:

“We must cut short this imitation of the physico-chemical, and even in part biological, sciences, we must acquire the autonomy to speak a language which is not distorted by borrowings from the other natural sciences.”

Soul | Spirit → Physical science
The following is Lundberg's very sharp take on the history and future of the slow replacement of all the spiritual and soul conceptions into pure physical descriptions: [6]

“Semantic confusion has resulted in a most mischievous separation of fields of knowledge into the ‘natural’ and ‘physical’ on one hand as against the ‘social’ and ‘cultural’ (mental, non-material, spiritual) on the other. As a consequence, it has been assumed that the methods of studying the former field are not applicable to the latter. The generally admitted lag in the progress of the ‘social’ as contrasted with the ‘physical’ sciences has been a further result. The history of science consists largely of the account of the gradual expansion of the realms of the ‘natural’ and the ‘physical’ at the expense of the ‘mental’ and the ‘spiritual’. One by one ‘spiritual’ phenomena have become ‘physical’. The evolution of the concept of the ‘soul’ is especially relevant, because its final stage of transition or translation by way of the ‘mind’ into purely ‘physical’ concepts is still under way.”

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Praise | Tribute
The following are notes of praise and or tribute:

“The most able and influential of the positivists is George Lundberg, who has been professor of sociology at the University of Washington for a number of years. The works embodying his position most fully are Foundations of Sociology and Can Science Save Us?”
— Don Martindale (1998), The Nature and Types of Sociological Theory [13]

“In fairness, we should note, however, that some theorists in the positivist tradition, e.g. Lundberg (Can Science Save Us?, 1947), have made sincere efforts to reconcile political and moral concerns with the dream of a positivist science.”
Daniel Rigney (2001), “Society as a Machine” [12]

The following are noted quotes:

“The scientific method, as developed in the physical sciences during the last four hundred years, has proved incomparably powerful in solving certain age-long problems of cold, darkness, famine, epidemics, distance, communication, transportation, and a thousand other needs. Ironically, he finds himself today [in the wake of WWI 1914-19 and WWII 1939-45] engulfed in difficulties with his fellow man. Why does he not turn in this predicament to the methods which have proved themselves so potent in other fields? The principle reason is tradition. Human relations are not yet generally believed to be proper subjects for serious scientific study. Indeed, a great many accredited social scientists, in the sense of practicing economists, sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and above all ‘political’ scientists, are not themselves convinced that science can and should mean, in their respective field, the same impersonal, rigorous, and nonethical discipline that the word implies in the physical world.”
— George Lundberg (1947), Can Science Save Us? (pg. 4)

“There is no doubt that much of what we not teach on social subjects is worse than useless, because it consists merely of transmitting the errors, prejudices, and speculations of bygone generations. Unless knowledge is constantly tested and replenished through scientific research, education may be an enemy rather than an aid to social amelioration.”
— George Lundberg (1947), Can Science Save Us? (pg. 8)
Can Science Save Us (1947)
Lundberg's 1947 Can Science Save Us?, wherein he applies the scientific method to sociology, is said to be one of his best books, in respect to positivism.

“Many thoughtful people, including some scientists of distinction and unquestioned competence in their own fields, genuinely feel that there are certain differences between the subject matter of the physical and social sciences which preclude the applicability of the same general methods to both.”
— George Lundberg (1947), Can Science Save Us? (pg. 18)

“One distinguished scientist [Julian Huxley, 1940] has urged that a basic difference between the physical and the social sciences is that in the latter ‘the investigator is inside instead of outside his material.’ This is supposed to be self-evident and require no analysis.”
— George Lundberg (1947), Can Science Save Us? (pg. 20) [14]

“Most people’s acquaintance with science has involved laboratories and controlled experiments. Indeed, the word science probably conjures up to most people the image of a man in a white coat looking critically at a test tube. Accordingly, another insuperable obstacle to social science is usually urged. How can a piece of society be put in a test tube [see: social retort]?”
— George Lundberg (1947), Can Science Save Us? (pg. 21)

“Another fatal obstacle to a full-fledged natural science of human social phenomena is alleged to be the presence in the latter of a unique and mysterious something called motives. What is meant by motives? The word is used to designate those circumstances to which we find it ‘reasonable’ to attribute an occurrence. The motive we impute to an act is accordingly entirely relative to the frame of reference we adopt and accept as reasonable. To a scientist, the motives of a stone rolling downhill or of a boy murdering his father are simply the full set of circumstances resulting in either event.”
— George Lundberg (1947), Can Science Save Us? (pg. 22)

“Social scientists are today merely chipping flint in the stone age of their science, I do not see that we have any choice but to follow the rough road that other sciences have traveled.”
— George Lundberg (1947), Can Science Save Us? (pgs. 27-28)

“Shall we are shell we not assume that we can formulate laws of human behavior which are comparable to the laws of gravity, thermodynamics, and bacteriology? These latter laws do not of themselves create engineering wonders or cure disease. Nevertheless they constitute knowledge of a kind which is indispensable.”
— George Lundberg (1947), Can Science Save Us? (pg. 29)

“The application of scientific knowledge obviously involves value judgments of some sort. The problem is equally present in other sciences. After we know how to produce dynamite and what it will do, there remains the question: Shall we drop it from airplanes to destroy cathedrals and cities, or shall we use it to build roads through the mountains? After we know the effects of certain drugs and gases, the question remains: Shall we use them to alleviate the pain and prevent disease, or shall we use them to destroy helpless and harmless populations? There is certainly nothing in the well-developed sciences of chemistry or physics which answers these questions.”
— George Lundberg (1947), Can Science Save Us? (pg. 37)

“The business of social scientists, broadly speaking, is to be able to predict with high probability the social weather, just as meteorologists predict sunshine or storm.”
— George Lundberg (1947), Can Science Save Us? (pg. 38)

“Pious platitudes doubtless will continue to be heard for some time about the ‘unpredictability’ of human behavior.”
— George Lundberg (1947), Can Science Save Us? (pg. 49)

“Human relations will improve when we undertake serious scientific study of how to improve them. In the meantime, we continue to rely on incantations, denunciations, exhortations, and exorcism exactly as our prescientific fore fathers did regarding their physical maladjustments. One reason for the failure of our schools to turn out people more familiar with the scientific approach is that even the physical sciences still receive a minor proportion of attention in the liberal arts college, not to mention the grades and high school.”
— George Lundberg (1947), Can Science Save Us? (pg. 77)

“One of the most significant things about the highly developed physical sciences, such as chemistry and physics, is their remarkable capacity to compel agreement on answers to physical and chemical questions. At the same time, scientists allow themselves the widest imaginable liberty and difference of opinion regarding ultimate values and philosophies.”
— George Lundberg (1947), Can Science Save Us? (pg. 125-26)

1. Stark, Werner, Leonard, Eileen B., Strasser, Hermann, and Westhues, Kenneth. (1993) In Search of Community: Essays in Memory of Werner Stark (1909-1985) (physicalist terms, pg. 54, 57). Fordham University Press.
2. (a) Lundberg, George. (1939). Foundations of Sociology (electron-proton, pgs. 40, 204-05). MacMillan.
(b) Anon. (1948). “article”, Social Forces, Vol. 26. (pg. 16).
4. Lundberg, George. (1947). Can Science Save Us? (thermodynamics, pg. 25). Longmans, Green and Co.
5. (a) Lundberg, George. (1939). Foundations of Sociology (pg. vii). MacMillan.
(b) Russett, Cynthia. (1966). The Concept of Equilibrium in American Social Thought (pgs. 125-26). Yale College.
6. Lundberg, George A. (1964). Foundations of Sociology: Revised and Abridged Edition (§:1-4) (soul → physical, pg. 4; phlogiston, pg. 6). David McKay Company, Inc.
7. Russett, Cynthia. (1966). The Concept of Equilibrium in American Social Thought (pgs. 126-27). Yale College.
8. Lundberg, George. (1939). Foundations of Sociology (Gibbs, pgs. 126-27; Henderson, 6+ pgs). MacMillan.
9. (a) Lundberg, George. (1939). Foundations of Sociology (pgs. 205, 207-10). MacMillan.
(b) Russett, Cynthia. (1966). The Concept of Equilibrium in American Social Thought (pgs. 126-27). Yale College.
10. (a) Sorokin, Pitirim. (1940). “Book Review: Foundations of Sociology by George Lundberg” (abs), American Journal of Sociology, 45(5):795-98.
(b) Russett, Cynthia. (1966). The Concept of Equilibrium in American Social Thought (pg. 131). Yale College.
11. (a) Sorokin, Pitirim. (1936). "Le concept d'equilibre: est-il necessaire aux sciences socialies?", presidential address before the Internal Congress of Sociology, in: Social and Cultural Dynamics, vol 4, pg. 677.
(b) Russett, Cynthia. (1966). The Concept of Equilibrium in American Social Thought (pgs. 131). Yale College.
12. Rigney, Daniel. (2001). The Metaphorical Society: an Invitation to Social Theory (§3: Society as Machine, pgs. 41-62, quote, pg. 48). Rowman & Littlefield.
13. Martindale, Don. (1998). The Nature and Types of Sociological Theory (§George A. Lundberg, pgs. 119-23; esp. pg. 119). Routledge, 2013.
14. (a) Huxley, Julian. (1940). “Science, Natural and Social”, Scientific Monthly, 57, Jan; in: Science and Man (editor: R.N. Anshen) (pg. 273). Brace and Co., 1942.
(b) Lundberg, George. (1947). Can Science Save Us? (thermodynamics, pg. 25). Longmans, Green and Co.

External links
George A. Lundberg – Wikipedia.

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